Al Jazeera World

Egypt’s Morsi: The Final Hours

An investigation into the behind-the-scenes turmoil during the final days of Mohamed Morsi’s presidency.

The 2011 Arab Spring had seen the end of President Hosni Mubarak‘s 30-year rule and within 18 months, Mohamed Morsi had become Egypt‘s first democratically-elected president. But after one year in office, almost weekly street protests and riots appeared to reach a climax with calls for Morsi to resign and even for the military to intervene. In July 2013, Morsi was overthrown.

Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal reported on events in Egypt at the time – and now reveals new exclusive evidence of top-level conspiracy, power-broking and betrayal in the turmoil that led to Morsi’s last days in office.

Until now, much of what took place in the final days of the Morsi presidency was known only to those who witnessed the events first hand. Of the nine men with Morsi at the time, only one is no longer in jail.

In this film, Egypt’s former foreign relations assistant, Khaled al-Qazzaz among others, tells the behind-the-scenes story of the Morsi presidency’s final hours.

Throughout 2012 and into 2013, the streets of Egypt were rocked by almost weekly protests and riots, as well as an anger and frustration that divided the nation. The people who had risen up in 2011 had seen little improvement economically and they felt that the freedom they had gained was being misused by some to create chaos. 

‎‎From what I know, senior US government officials by that juncture, June 25, 2013, were aware of the possibility of a military coup against Morsi.‎

by Andrew Miller, US National Security Council (2014-2017)

Continuous power cuts, fuel shortage and petrol queues that later were proven to have been orchestrated by the deep state, lead to a toxic mix of anger and despair among the public.

But the crisis in Egypt was not limited to fuel shortages and wages, nor were they limited to the big cities. In Sinai, attacks took place against security forces by groups that few had heard of before.

‎‎”President Morsi complained about interference from a certain Gulf state and told me that they had detected weapons shipments from this country to armed groups in Sinai, as well as money being sent to them,” says Khalid al-Attiyah, Qatari minister of defence and former foreign minister. “But he also told me he was able to negotiate with this state.”

As protests continued and events unfolded, concern was expressed by world leaders. But it seemed Morsi’s fate had already been sealed.

“‎‎From what I know, senior US government officials by that juncture June 25, 2013, were aware of the possibility of a military coup against Morsi,”‎‎ ‎‎according to Andrew Miller, US National Security Council (2014-2017).

Days after Morsi’s June 26 speech, in which he attempted to pacify the population and offered several concessions to the opposition, his minister of defence General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi issued him with an ultimatum either to step down or face military intervention. 

“‎‎By the time that the military issued a 48-hour ultimatum, I think the overwhelming view in the US government was that it was too late. ‎‎That the die had already been cast, and no matter what happened short of Morsi resigning preemptively, that the military was going to forcibly remove him from the position of the presidency,” explains Miller.‎‎ 

President Morsi was overthrown on July 3, 2013, and initially placed under house arrest where he was held incommunicado.

Khalid al-Qazzaz, the presidential secretary for foreign affairs, recounts his last meetings with Morsi: “On the morning of July 4, we were allowed to have breakfast with the president. We found him to be surprisingly calm. He said it was the first time he’d been able to sleep for consecutive hours since he’d assumed responsibility.”

“It was clear he’d done his utmost to preserve the gains of the revolution and protect the Egyptian people. It was now up to the people either to choose to return to a police state or try to restore their revolution.”

Since the 2013 coup, a police crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood has left hundreds dead and tens of thousands jailed, many under draconian anti-protest and anti-terrorism laws.

Morsi has been tried in several different cases. The former president remains in jail, facing a death sentence and charges that range from espionage, leaking intelligence information, collaborating with foreign forces to insulting the judiciary and freeing Islamists from jail in 2011.

Amnesty International has described Egypt’s judicial system as “horrendously broken” and described death sentences handed out to Morsi and other members of the Muslim Brotherhood in previous trials as a “vengeful march to the gallows.”

In a report released on March 28, 2018, a panel of British MPs and international lawyers said Morsi’s conditions of imprisonment and inadequate medical care would likely lead to his “premature death”.

Mohamed Morsi’s one-year presidency was troubled from the start by a country still divided after the 2011 revolution and by forces at work within the so-called “deep state” – which combined to bring about his “final hours”.